HOUSTON - A basic scientist, a biostatistician and two researchers who connect scientific findings with the clinic are the newest Fellows elected to the American Association for the Advancement of Science from The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.
"Election to AAAS is richly deserved, elite peer recognition for our four new fellows, who reflect the multidisciplinary excellence of MD Anderson faculty," said MD Anderson President Ronald DePinho, M.D.
AAAS Fellows are elected by existing members of the 139-year-old organization, the world's largest general scientific society. MD Anderson now has 23 AAAS Fellows on its faculty, with 14 elected in the last three years. This year's are:
- Michael Andreeff, M.D., Ph.D., professor of Leukemia and chief of Section of Molecular Hematology and Therapy, for landmark contributions in translating knowledge of cancer-fighting apoptotic (cell suicide) mechanisms in acute myelogenous leukemia to the development of novel therapies using BH3 mimics, and the targeting of apoptosis inhibitors MDM2 and ARC.
- Ethan Dmitrovsky, M.D., provost and executive vice president, for distinguished contributions to the establishment of retinoid differentiation therapy for acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL), cloning its genetic rearrangement, developing a molecular test for it, and finding a mechanism that degrades the fusion protein that causes the disease.
- Kim-Anh Do, Ph.D., professor and chair of Biostatistics, for distinguished contributions to computational statistics and integrated statistical methodology to analyze complex genetic, protein and metabolic data, with applications to translational cancer research and personalized medicine.
- Richard D. Wood, Ph.D., professor of Molecular Carcinogenesis, for pioneering and fundamental discoveries regarding mechanisms of DNA nucleotide excision repair and the role of specialized DNA polymerases, enzymes used to copy DNA, in minimizing genome instability and cancer.
"Recognition as an AAAS fellow is a reflection on my terrific team of co-workers and generous collaborators over the years, including a wonderful research group now," Wood said. "We've recently discovered some new roles for DNA repair proteins and it is exciting as we write these up for publication - there is much more to come!" Wood also holds MD Anderson's Grady F. Saunders, Ph.D., Distinguished Professorship for Molecular Biology.
Do works closely with clinicians and basic scientists to address challenges in translational research and personalized medicine by contributing improved statistical science integrated with innovative computational algorithms and state-of-the-art technology.
"My lifelong goal is to advance statistical practice and outreach through multidisciplinary collaborations and by mentoring and educating the next generation of scientists," Do said. "I appreciate the uniquely flexible environment at MD Anderson, which constitutes a valuable network of sharp and collaborative colleagues."
Dmitrovsky arrived at MD Anderson in July from Dartmouth, where he was professor and chair of the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology at the Geisel School of Medicine, to lead MD Anderson's research and academic missions.
"Honors such as this only come through the efforts and dedication of many others over many years," Dmitrovsky said. "Working with my research team and other collaborators is a privilege."
Once uniformly lethal, APL is now cured in 90 percent of patients since the inclusion of All-Trans Retinoic Acid (ATRA) in combination therapy to treat the disease. Dmitrovsky's lab primarily focuses on lung cancer now and will complete its move to MD Anderson in 2014.
Andreeff's research encompasses breast cancer as well as blood malignancies. Over the last decade, his group has made major contributions to understanding drug resistance mediated by cancer's surrounding micro-environment and developed strategies to exploit the underlying mechanisms to treat hematological cancers and the most common form of solid tumors.
"Election to the AAAS is a great honor that highlights the integration of basic, translational and clinical research in the field of apoptosis that has been our goal in Molecular Hematology and Therapy and the entire Leukemia Department," Andreeff said. "This work is now starting to have major impact in leukemia and tumor therapy and I feel privileged to work with so many highly motivated colleagues at the vibrant institution that is MD Anderson." Andreeff also holds the Paul and Mary Haas Chair in Genetics in Honor of Amanda Marie Whittle.
This year 388 members of the society have been awarded this honor by AAAS because of their scientifically or socially distinguished efforts to advance science or its applications. New fellows will be presented with an official certificate and a gold and blue rosette pin on Saturday, Feb. 15, 2014 at the AAAS Fellows Forum during the 2014 AAAS Annual Meeting in Chicago.
Currently, AAAS members can be considered for the rank of Fellow if nominated by the steering groups of the Association's 24 sections, or by any three Fellows who are current AAAS members (so long as two of the three sponsors are not affiliated with the nominee's institution), or by the AAAS chief executive officer. Each steering group reviews the nominations of individuals within its respective section and a final list is forwarded to the AAAS Council, which votes on the aggregate list.